Province announces $500K investment in online mental health care

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Online mental health programs for children and families in the province have expanded through the Strongest Families Institute — a charity that provides programs over the phone to children and families in need.

On Thursday morning, Health Minister Tom Osborne re-announced Budget 2024’s $500,000 investment in the institute to expand its stepped-care programming, which provides different levels of care and coaching depending on the client’s needs.

The organization offers several programs for behaviour, anxiety, depression, pain, and bed-wetting, in addition to programs for families of active military and veterans.

Since 2015, Strongest Families Institute’s CEO, Dr. Patricia Lingley-Pottie, said they have served 11,000 children, youth, adults and families across the province. 

Osborne said the announcement’s purpose is to “get the word out,” after some MHAs on the government’s all-party committee for mental health and addictions didn’t know about the organization or its programs. 

“It is an excellent program and obviously we need to educate not only the general public, but even MHAs who receive phone calls so that they can help constituents,” he said.

‘It saved my families mental health’

Lingley-Pottie called Newfoundland and Labrador a leader in e-mental health solutions. 

“We have families in far-reaching areas like Labrador who are accessing our services, and that’s so great because there’s sometimes a limited availability of services to access and they don’t have to leave their home to do this,” she told reporters.

Woman with medium length brown hair speaks at a podium to reporters.
Lisa Freake is a client of Strongest Families Institute, and says the program has helped her daughter immensely. (Mark Quinn)

Lisa Freake is a client of the Strongest Families Institute. She started the program after her daughter was diagnosed with autism with a global developmental delay.

Before starting the program, Freake said taking her daughter outside the house was difficult.

“It would end up being frustrating for us. It would end up being frustrating for her, and a lot of times we just turn around, go back home,” she said.

The program changed everything.

“It saved my mental health, has saved our family’s mental health,” Freake said.

“When we first started the program, she couldn’t even walk into the school, wouldn’t walk in. It was too overwhelming, too much anxiety. When we were done the program, she made it right to the end. She made it through her one full day of school and it was the best thing.”

Freake said her daughter still has additional issues, but she is a different child than when the family started the program.

“It honestly is the best program that we’ve ever done,” she said.

The province’s latest investment will help the organization reach more people.

“To any families out there who are struggling, you are not alone. We’re here for you. It’s important to catch signs of anxiety and depression and stress early so that we can offer help right away,” Lingley-Pottie said.

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